04.07.2019 PIERRE FLOURENS – DERUSSY About an early daguerreian portrait

Since the foundation in 1666, the members of the French Academy of sciences are called “Immortels”, and the secretaries “Perpetuels”.
During all 19th century there were two secretaries managing the “seances” together. In the year of the announcement of the invention of photography, in 1839, one was the famous François Arago…
François Arago who announced the first complete practical photographic process at a meeting of the French Academy of Sciences, on 7 January 1839 and followed all the first public developments.

Earlier in the century, the main dispute in the Academy and all the scientific community was about the classical particle and wave theories of light.

François Arago had been a fierce supporter in the 1810s of the wave view, against the ray and particle view, but this opinion began to dominate scientific thinking about light only in the mid 19th century. Among his friends, Alexander von Humboldt was on the same side, when Jean-Baptiste Biot was then on the opposite side following Laplace.

It is interesting to note than when Daguerre visited Arago on late 1838, the Perpétuel sat down with both Humboldt and Biot to evaluate the invention. The same scholars who had argued on the theory of light 30 years before were now gathering to study together its effects and persistent shadows on a polished silver mirror.

The other Perpétuel was Pierre Flourens, a physiologist who prove that the mind was located in the brain, not the heart, through the study of ablations on numerous animals, also a pioneer in anesthesia. Pierre and François worked together for twenty years as François was permanent secretary, maths section, betwen 1830 and 1853, when Pierre was between 1833 and 1868. And when Arago passed away, Flourens took over the various presentation of improvement in the field of scientific photography …

At some moment of 1848, Pierre Flourens had to choose an artist to realize a portrait of his three children, three sons. His choice went on Philibert Derussy (1814-1894), 3 rue des Prouvaires, corner with 83 rue saint-Honoré.
This operator is little known today and his name and dates are even difficult to find out.

Nevertheless Derussy was among the first group of only five photographers to receive a prize (a mention) in the first public photography exhibition !

The quality of the 1/4 plate image (111×83 mm) illustrates the excellent comments of the 1844 Jury de l’exposition, confirmed in 1849.

The plate is not signed and the name of Derussy was hard to find through the modest remains of a printed label, verso.

The three sons became famous. The younger Abel Flourens (1845-1918) wrote an interesting thesis on artist’s rights: Droit romain : de “ad exhibendum actione”. Droit français : Origine et développement en France de la législation sur les droits d’auteur…
The second Emile Flourens (1841-1920) was an influencial Minister of Foreign Affairs during the Third Republic. He criticized the Permanent Court of Arbitration and critiqued the premise on which the League of Nations and the World Court were founded, and advocated that international law ought to remain arbitral, rather than judicial, in its execution.
The elder Gustave Flourens (1838-1871) was a very young professor at College de France before becoming at 33 a French Revolutionary leader and writer, a central character of the Paris Commune.
In his notes to modern editions of some of Jules Verne’s works William Butcher has suggested that one of Verne’s most famous characters, Captain Nemo, is based on Gustave Flourens.
Access to the transcription of the long Pierre Larousse article on Gustave Flourens (in French)

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